2012 Honda Civic Debuts

2012 Honda Civic Debuts

2011 New York Auto Show

2011 New York Auto Show

Just the Facts:
  • The redesigned 2012 Honda Civic debuts today, with evolutionary styling and an eye toward higher EPA fuel-economy ratings in an era of soaring gasoline prices.
  • Even though the EPA has yet to weigh in, Honda says all Civic models get higher EPA fuel-economy ratings versus the 2011 Civic — and there's a new Civic HF that gets an estimated 41 mpg on the highway.
  • The magic mark is 40 mpg in this segment, something that is achieved by the 2011 Hyundai Elantra. The 2012 Civic sedan and coupe get an estimated 39 mpg on the highway, says Honda, falling just shy of that benchmark.

TORRANCE, California — Is the redesigned 2012 Honda Civic, which officially debuts today, a member of the elite 40-mpg club? Sort of.

The 2012 Civic coupe, sedan and hybrid went on sale today in the U.S. with more streamlined styling, an array of engine choices and an eye toward higher EPA fuel-economy ratings in an era of soaring gasoline prices. Even though the EPA has yet to weigh in with official numbers, Honda says all Civic models get higher fuel-economy numbers versus the 2011 models, up by as much as 8 percent on the highway in 2012 Civic sedans and coupes equipped with automatic transmissions.

But Honda is estimating that the ninth-generation Civic sedan and coupe will be rated on the highway at 39 mpg when all is said and done, falling just shy of the magic 40-mpg mark achieved by competitors such as the 2011 Hyundai Elantra, which Automotive News in March called the "big-volume 40-mpg car."

Perhaps anticipating questions about 39 mpg versus 40 mpg in the Civic and its competitors, the Japanese automaker rolled out a new 2012 Honda Civic HF sedan as part of the six-model lineup. Honda said the HF gets an estimated 41 mpg on the highway — an additional 5 percent above a similarly equipped 2012 Civic sedan. The HF is equipped with a 140-horsepower 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine, a five-speed automatic transmission, 15-inch lightweight alloy wheels and aerodynamic enhancements under the body and a rear spoiler.

The HF will arrive in showrooms on May 10, while the performance-oriented 2012 Honda Civic Si will go on sale May 24. The 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas will debut in the fall. Honda said it will make a bigger push to sell the Civic Natural Gas model, making it available to dealers on a nationwide basis as opposed to just four states for the previous model. It is equipped with a 110-hp 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine with a five-speed automatic transmission. Honda says the Civic Natural Gas will deliver an estimated 27 mpg in city driving and 38 mpg on the highway.

Honda's Japanese executive team squirmed during the media event when asked about the 1-mpg difference between the Civic and Elantra and noted through a translator that real fuel efficiency is different depending on who is doing the driving.

In an odd twist that seems to defy Honda's zeal in improving the Civic's fuel economy, the 2012 Civic Si coupe and sedan models — equipped with a larger 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 201 hp — will not come with the EcoAssist technology, which debuted in the Honda CR-Z last year. This feature allows drivers to choose between different drive modes that alter fuel economy. Jay Guzowski, American Honda senior product planner, said the Si customer base is not "trying to get the best fuel economy" and that while the company considered putting the feature on the Si, "it didn't seem to make sense." Honda expects the 2012 Si to deliver 22 mpg in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway — 1 mpg higher in the city and 2 mpg higher on the highway versus the 2011 model.

The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid gets upgraded with a lithium-ion battery — a first for a Honda hybrid — and gets an estimated 44 mpg in city driving and 44 mpg on the highway. It is equipped with a 110-hp 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine and a continuously variable transmission. The previous Honda Civic Hybrid has the older nickel-metal hydride battery and a 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine.

The high-volume 2012 Civic sedan and coupe models are equipped with a standard 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 140 hp and 128 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard in Civic EX and EX-L models. A five-speed manual is standard on the Civic DX and LX as well, with a five-speed automatic transmission an optional feature. The automatic transmission is the only choice on the Civic EX-L coupe, EX and EX-L sedans and the HF.

At the time of this writing, formal pricing had not yet been announced, but Honda said the Civic will range in price from $15,000-$27,000. That is consistent with 2011 Civic pricing. The base 2011 Civic DX starts at $16,555, including a $750 destination charge.

All 2012 Civics get vehicle stability assist as standard equipment.

Honda also hastened to reassure customers that Civic production is on track, despite the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and subsequent nuclear reactor disaster. "Production for some models began in January," said Christina Ra, Honda North America spokesperson on April 6 during the media rollout of the Civic in Washington, D.C. "Production is or will be underway within the next couple of weeks at varying levels. We are on track; nothing is delayed."

Edmunds.com notes that the Civic has ranked No. 1 in compact car sales every year since 2000. In that time, the Civic's share of the compact-car segment has grown from 11.6 percent in 2000 to 14.4 percent in 2010, achieving its high of 14.7 percent in 2004. Since 2000, compact cars have made up between 12.5 and 17.5 percent of total light vehicle sales in the U.S., depending on market conditions.

However, Edmunds.com also notes that the Civic accounted for 23.7 percent of all Honda sales in 2010, down from a high of 32.0 percent in 2001 and "consistently slipping since that time."

Honda refused to predict sales for the 2012 Civic, but top U.S. executive John Mendel insists the Civic "has a lot of life in it."

Honda says Civic buyers are loyal, with about 23 percent buying a second Civic.

Edmunds.com says: The key question is, will a 39-mpg Civic be a psychological barrier to buyers, especially if fuel prices veer toward $5 per gallon? — Anita Lienert, Correspondent

Leave a Comment

New Car Buying Guides

See which cars and trucks our editors recommend